By Pete Chiodo
Casey Baker’s role has changed dramatically from his days as a do-it-all standout for the Conneaut Valley High School basketball team.
And, in many ways, so has Casey Baker.
The formerly tall and rangy kid that used to light up scoreboards across Crawford County is now a grown man, muscular and fairly tall (by Division II standards), whose current job as the starting sophomore forward for the Urbana University basketball team includes a lot of the grunt work.
“I play a whole different role in college,” said Baker. “I’m more of a defender and rebounder. I do all the scrap work. But I enjoy it. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to stay in the starting lineup.”
On Tuesday night quite a few area fans turned out to Edinboro’s McComb Fieldhouse to watch Baker set picks and take charges and battle for boards as the Blue Knights took on the Fighting Scots.
And while Edinboro held on for an exciting victory over Urbana, 88-85, Baker said it was still a treat to play in front of some familiar faces.
“It was great to be home,” he said. “It was nice to see the community and all the support. It was nice to come back and put on a good show. We just fell a little short.”
Urbana heads back to western Ohio with a record of 3-4.
Edinboro’s record, meanwhile, stays unblemished at 3-0.
“We knew (Urbana) was a good team,” said Scots head coach Greg Walcavich. “We were fortunate enough to win the game, that’s for sure.”
The Fighting Scots were able to withstand a late charge by the Knights. Edinboro led by as much as 11 points in the second half (71-60), but a 13-point run by Urbana gave the Knights a 73-71 lead with 5:26 to play.
Urbana was 3-for-3 from behind the arc during the run. Armond Battle, a transfer from Division I Wright State, had one 3-pointer. Mitchell Ramel (with an assist by Baker) and Derrick Sanderfer had the others. Battle later added a fourth triple to give the Knights a 76-73 lead with 4:57 to go.
But then Urbana dried up from the 3-point line, missing its next three attempts. And at the same time, Edinboro’s guards caught fire.
“They hit some really clutch 3s in the last two and a half minutes,” said Urbana head coach Jeff Porter. “It was really bad timing for us to keep that lead.
“We started trying to trade buckets from 3-point range. We had been successful just going to the hoop. And we started to rely on the 3-pointer too much.”
After a put-back by Bryan Theriot made it a one-point game, Jonathan Logan knocked down a 3 to put ’Boro back in front 78-76. Then Jay Fletcher added a trey. Then Logan drained another, and Edinboro led 84-80 with 1:32 to go.
“With Jonathan Logan crossing up that zone, that was very clutch for us,” said Theriot.
Urbana brought it back down to a one-point game (86-85) with 25 seconds remaining after a sleek drive by Danny Goins. But Fletcher made a pair of free throws with nine seconds remaining to bring it back out to three points. And Ramel’s last-second 3-point try fell short, allowing the Scots to hold on.
Theriot ended up leading Edinboro with 31 points and eight rebounds. Isaiah Prince also had an outstanding night, scoring 22 points with eight boards, seven assists and six steals. And Fletcher finished 4-for-7 at the arc and scored 16 points.
For Urbana, Battle posted a game-best 34 points and led the Knights with seven rebounds. Goins followed with 14 points. Ramel had 11.
As for Baker, he made one of two 3-point attempts, had three rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. It’s not the kind of night people are used to from Baker. But for the Blue Knights, he did his job.
“Casey played very well,” said coach Porter, without being asked. “He rebounded the ball well, and when he was giving up six inches to another player. It was a hard matchup. But I’ve been very proud of him and how he’s been playing all year, starting as a sophomore.”
And Baker also received a cheer from his local fans after recording each stat.
“I had a lot of fans here from back in high school,” said Baker. “And I am so thankful for the people that surrounded me through high school. So it was nice to have that support again.”